Work on U's stadium 'could start soon'

CONSTRUCTION work on a new stadium destined to become the home of promotion-chasing Colchester United could begin as early as June this year, the EADT can reveal.

By Roddy Ashworth

CONSTRUCTION work on a new stadium destined to become the home of promotion-chasing Colchester United could begin as early as June this year, the EADT can reveal.

Full agreement on legal deals freeing up land for the north Colchester regeneration project was finally achieved yesterday when the board of the North Essex Mental Health Partnership approved the use of its former Severall's Hospital site.

The move will now activate the outline planning permission granted in August 2003 which means that, bar some minor issues, the community stadium scheme can go ahead.


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Partners in the project will now thrash out the final details of the proposals, obtain detailed planning permission and it is hoped the scheme can be put out to tender by April.

This means that work could start two months later and the opening of the new ground could be delivered in time for its target date of August 2007.

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However, yesterday Steve Clarke, head of social and economic regeneration at Colchester Borough Council, warned that some obstacles could still delay the project.

One of these includes a variation on the outline planning permission that will now be granted.

A condition imposed back in 2003 said that the stadium could not be built or occupied before a new junction is built on the A12, which will not happen until after the 2007 target.

The council believes it can manage the traffic impact the new stadium would bring, and so hopes to delete the condition, but some residents - especially those in the Mile End area - may object.

Also, the plans for the community stadium involve the council spending £11million, much of which it will have to borrow.

Its own scrutiny procedures, as well as those of the Audit Commission, could lead to the business plan for the stadium being queried and so delay the progress.

Mr Clarke said yesterday: “Unfortunately, with a project as big as this anything could happen at any stage which will require us to do more work.

“We are waiting to see what obstacles and hurdles we come across. While everyone is working very hard to meet the timetable, as a public body Colchester Borough Council will have to satisfy certain requirements, in particular about having to borrow a large amount of money to make the project happen.

“All projects have obstacles at every stage, and it is just about working our way through them.”

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